Hired for Secrets

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You turn me on

After spying on Philip, Sofie fell asleep disappointed and confused. He destroyed her main camera, stopping her from collecting more intel, but he also called out her name while being with another woman. It either was a ruthless ploy to get back at her for bugging his room or this conscience-proof gigolo had feelings for her. It was twisted, either way. But what’s even more twisted: her phone was ringing with her spy cam’s number.

“Miss Carter…,“ Sofie instantly recognized Philip’s voice on the other end. It was deep and low, creating an intimacy that matched her cosy dark bedroom.

“You took it to the next level,” he continued.

He didn’t sound angry. Instead, there was a weariness in his voice, like he was over playing games.

“Philip,” she rasped, still groggy from waking up. “How did you get this number?”

That’s your response? Ok. I see the gloves have come off.” He paused, he needed to decide how to handle this, “I took your camera apart and found the SIM. This was the last number on the card.”

Damit! Her computer dialed in with an untraceable connection, but her mobile had simply called the SIM. She had been careless in her haste to find out whether the cameras worked.

“How did you spot the camera?”

“Ha, Miss Carter, you continue to underestimate me.” Underneath the mockery, Sofie heard a different emotion. Was it hurt? Perhaps disappointment that Sofie didn’t give him credit for his unusual talent to notice the strange, the hidden, the secret. “The stereo sounded odd. It was only for a second. But it’s never happened before and today I noticed it twice. First a couple of minutes after you left and then again when I got back with my client. So, I had a look and there it was.”

The cameras created a small power-surge when switched on. It was only for a split second and hardly noticeable. But apparently obvious enough for Philip’s uncanny senses.

“How did you know it was me?”

“No one else would dare.”

There was a sharpness in his voice that made Sofie’s blood run cold. Was he showing who he really was under all the suave polished veneer?

“Why are you calling, Philip?”

“I think I’ve given you the wrong impression. You don’t seem to realize how powerful Elandra is and what a dangerous game you are playing here.”

Sofie didn’t respond to his blunt warning. She leaned back into her plush pillows. Feeling the warmth from where she had been sleeping before. This time, she was comfortable with the silence, with where the conversation was going, with what he implied.

No one dared taking them on. Until now. It gave her a smug satisfaction. She would be the first to conquer this mountain. It’s what she did: taking down the institutions that were too big to fail, too scrupulous to yield, too dangerous to bring to justice. These David-and-Goliath fights were her speciality.

“Are there any more cameras?” Philip continued his interrogation undeterred. “Because if there are, you better tell me right now. I need to take them down before security finds them and you get in trouble.”

Ha, wouldn’t you like to know if you got them all?

“Are you trying to threaten me, Philip?” Sofie’s voice was calm with a hint of ridicule. What kind of threat was that anyway? Getting in trouble with security. What was this? A shopping mall?

Philip took an auditable breath.

“I’m trying to help you.”

“Of course you are.”

“Look,” he continued ignoring her sarcasm, “I don’t know who you are, but I think you’re in over your head. If I can get to you, then Security will too. And he doesn’t issue threats first.”

Philip used the word Security like a name. Like it was someone to be feared. Someone who could not be contained. Someone who was capable of doing unspeakable things to her once he found her.

“I appreciate the heads up, Philip.”

She meant it. If Elandra was as dangerous as he claimed, he would be in trouble simply by telling her this. Unless, of course, he was the one in charge. In that case, he was trying to lower her defences by playing the protector.

“Why are you so glib?” Philip was getting annoyed and Sofie could hear him pace in his bedroom. “How do you know that Security isn’t tracing you right now? Hm? Finding out where you live? Because I don’t! He might be on his way to resolve this little issue?” Philip’s voice had become louder. “He could already be at your door. Don’t you understand? Breaking in while we argue. He could ...”

“Philip,” Sofie interrupted his erratic spout of words. “I’m touched that you’re worried about me. But there’s no need.”

She had to snicker at the thought of them actually trying to geo-trace her. Her mobile rerouted calls and she would show up in Tunisia or Korea right now. She had been in the business long enough to know the tricks and rules to survive. Like never to disclose her mobile number. In fact, her number was virtual and automatically changed everyday. Philip got lucky. Tumbling through the maze in the brief moment in time when everything was still aligned. Tomorrow it would reset and there was no way for him to reach her again without getting lost in dead ends and blind turns.

But he didn’t know that; didn’t need to know. He was a pawn in her game and it was time to make her move.

“You know what else touches me, Philip?” She said, not even hiding the satisfied grin in her voice. “You calling my name when you come.”

Her offhand bawdy statement was met with silence. It was a low blow but she could not resist following the smell of blood in the water.

“I see.” He took a deep breath. “I thought you were a professional. But you’re not, are you? You are a reckless thrill seeker, not recognizing that a strategic retreat is your best option. That’s too bad. I wonder what we could have achieved together with a more measured approach.”

Bastard. His confidence was infuriating, it seemed nothing could faze him for long. Sofie could not help but set him straight.

“Measured approaches are for people who give up when things get too difficult. And by the looks of it that’s exactly what you did tonight. After making such a big deal of not enjoying yourself you gave up the first chance you’ve got with Ms Hunt.”

“You are jealous...”

Sofie could hear his smile. Instead of being embarrassed he was excited. Why? Was it because it gave him more leverage against or it meant something to him? In any case, Sofie reeled from how quickly the tables had turned against her. She was indeed jealous and him calling it out made it painfully obvious how much of an effect he had on her. She envied every single one of Philip’s clients, who had the ability to summon him whenever they liked, while she had to resort to trickery to get his attention.

“But to answer your question...” He lowered his voice to a dangerous purr. “I broke my rules tonight because I was excited that our interactions weren’t over. That you wanted to stay connected. Wanted to watch me. And knowing the effect it would have on you… It simply turned me on too much.”

He cleared his throat and continued matter-of-factly, “tonight made me also realize how much this little wimp of mine interferes with my work. I cannot allow this to go on. We need to wrap up our engagement so both of us can get back to normal. So, Miss Carter, I can arrange one more visit. Free of charge, of course.”

How cocky to even suggest that she was willing to entertain the idea of returning to their original deal after all her trickery. But she was even more furious about her wanting nothing more than to do exactly that. To be back in his suite; back in his arms, sampling all he had to offer. But it wasn’t possible.

“I can’t do that, Philip.”

This was the first time he showed real vulnerability. And there was no way she wouldn’t exploit that. Ruthless? Maybe, but for the greater good. MP Kerry was a big story but there were many more stories like this in Philip’s treasure chest. All of them needed to be exposed. All of them Sofie wanted to have. And tonight he disclosed that there was a real chance for her to actually own them. That she had the power to make him give them up. Not for money or power but out of love.

“Can’t or won’t do that?”

A dangerous edge crept into his voice. Had he already caught on to her new plan?

“Sleeping with someone is a big deal for me,” Sofie hedged. “I don’t want to do it in a room where you had sex with hundreds of women before. I want to meet outside of Elandra? Have dinner? Take it from there?”

Getting him away from his home turf would be the first step to making him see her like a woman he could fall in love with, not a client he renders a service to.

“Are you asking me on a date?”

Sofie smiled. She savoured the thrill of asking the infamous Philip out on a date. Seducing him on her own terms. That was indeed a challenge worth accepting.

“Yes, I am.”

“I don’t date, Miss Carter. Least of all you.”

His voice was curt. Too curt. He did not rebuff her because he wasn’t interested. Far from it. She was actually getting somewhere!

“Why is that?”

“It’s too dangerous.”

“Oh c’mon. You’re allowed to have a private life, aren’t you? Where is the harm in having one dinner with me?”

There was a long silence on the line. He was struggling with his answer. Not so calm anymore, are you?

“I can’t leave the compound.”

“What do you mean? You’ll be going to the city with Ms Hunt.”

“That’s a business trip. There’ll be a driver. He’ll be with me until I am back at Elandra.”

He has a handler? The confident and enigmatic player was in fact a caged panther. All the elegance, wealth and power were his restraints. They were the bars that contained him and cut him off from the world.

“You are living in a cage, Philip!”

Was he lonely? Bored? Yearning to be free? He must be, how could he not?

“I don’t see it that way. Yes, I have a demanding employer. Elandra requires dedicated commitment, it’s not just a nine-to-five job. But I get paid accordingly and we are creating something truly unique. We are pioneering a service for women that has been available to men for millennia. No one has ever changed the paradigm or built an empire without some sacrifices. I get to create a legacy here.”

“It might be a golden cage in a new kind of zoo. But it’s still a cage. How can you not see that? You are their prisoner, Philip!”

“Hold on, I wouldn’t go quite that far. I could leave if I wanted to, I just couldn’t return.”

“Why not?”

“Because, Miss Carter, what I do requires a high level of trust. My clients want provenance on everything I did and that’s only possible if Elandra oversees my every move.”

“How can you not have a problem with that?”

“It wasn’t restrictive...”

“Until now?”

She didn’t need to phrase it as a question, the way his voice was trailing off made it clear that this was the case. It came out as a question because she could not quite believe how different his reality was to how she pictured it to be. Was this conversation his first glimpse in a while on an open horizon with endless possibilities? Reminding him what liberty tastes like? And how it felt to be asked what he wanted, instead of what’s best for Elandra?

“Yes... until now.” Mischief suddenly entered his voice, “I tell you what, I’ll send you some coordinates. Let’s meet there. Tomorrow. 11pm.”

“Coordinates?”

“Well, yes. I’m afraid it’s not a restaurant. But at least it’s outside Elandra. That’s unfortunately all I can offer for now.”

It sounded so genuine, so enthusiastic, so gleeful that Sofie could not help but be sucked in.

“That’s ok. I’m looking forward to it.”

“Great, see you tomorrow.”

The line disconnected. This conversation ended very differently from how it started. Suddenly her objective wasn’t to gain leverage or manipulate him to give up his information anymore. Instead, she wanted to know him, be his confidant, perhaps even help him escape. Maybe it was better to be loved than feared, after all.

The phone buzzed with a text message.

Unknown number:
51.245410 -0.368096. It’s a date.

Her heart leapt at the last sentence. It certainly felt like a date. She pulled up an online map and typed in the coordinates. They came up as a meadow a couple of kilometers away from Elandra. In the woods. Away from any streets or towns. They would be alone, in the middle of the night.

Oh no!

She was either going to meet the real Philip or get murdered in the process.

Was she really willing to risk that? For what? The chance of getting to know Philip?

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